By Ellen Bartyzal – email@example.com
The St. Ben’s Senate removed a senator from office at the end of last semester for the first time in over 20 years. Three senators filed for the formal removal of Public Relations Representative, Stephanie Van Beek. The senators cited their concern for Van Beek’s lack of adherence to her position’s duties as described in the St. Ben’s Senate’s Constitution. This removal may ellicit changes in the Senate’s removal policy at their constitutional review later in the semester.
Following the official file for removal, Van Beek had the option to resign or defend her position—she chose to defend her position in a formal review which took place on Dec. 20.
Senate President Elizabeth Erickson said the removal from office policy showed vagueness and made it difficult to identify specifics in regard to the process for removal.
“The is the first time [theremoval policy] has ever really been looked at,” Erickson said. “We followed all the proceedings exactly as they were outlined, but they weren’t—as you can tell—very specific. That’s been the biggest discrepancy here.”
The specific guidelines to the policy included a review process by the Judicial Board—made up of two senators, two St. Ben’s students and the Trustee senator—which reviewed the request for removal and considered the factual evidence of the case.
According to the 2016-17 Senate Constitution, in the event of a request for removal, the Judicial Board holds a meeting allowing the senators bringing forth another senator for review to identify grounds in which they believe the senator should be removed from office. Then, the senator requesting to be removed presents her defense. Senators wishing to express concurrent points may do so after one side presents.
Following these presentations, the Judicial Board votes on whether or not there is sufficient evidence for removal. Then, the evidence collected is presented to the entire Senate in a closed meeting. There, the Trustee
presents a formal document which explains the decision of the Judicial Board review and the senate votes on the removal.
In the case of Van Beek, 4/5 of the senate voted in favor of the removal, making the decision official.
St. John’s Senate has not had an impeachment on their Senate in recent years. Their Senate also has a removal policy in the Constitution, but the guidelines are a little more specific. Like St. Ben’s, the removal of a senator can be initiated by a senator, the Senate adviser or by a petition from students. However, the St. John’s Senate’s meetings with the Ethics Board, comparable to St. Ben’s Senate’s Judicial Board, are more descriptively laid out through timelines.
Van Beek says she believes the process was cold, uncomfortable and unfair.
“I hadn’t had these concerns voiced to me until a week prior to my [removal from office],” Van Beek said. “And that was kind of frustrating because it was literally the last week of school.”
She says it would have been more productive if the senators who felt she wasn’t upholding her responsibilities had talked to her before requesting for her removal from office.
This isn’t the first time the Public Relations Representative has caused issues for the Senate.
Since the position revolves around time-sensitive posting, deadlines have proven to be a recurring issue. When other senators first voiced concerns about Van Beek’s duties, she met with Erickson and Senate Adviser Jody Terhaar to try to create a new process for social media requests, something that seemed to cause the most problems for senators in the fall.
“It was a lot of dropping the ball because of so many extraneous variables, not just me or the other senator,” Van Beek said.
She also said her duties were difficult to simply check off a list. She said she didn’t finish certain social media requests on time in the fall but she didn’t believe it was grounds for removal from office.
Adviser Terhaar says it is difficult for many senators to understand the commitment of being a senator before they are actually around the table.
“I think the other thing with the Public Relations Representative position is that there’s also a level of skill and knowledge that’s needed to do the social media postings to leverage technology to our greatest advantage to monitor things like Instagram,” Terhaar said. “So it’s a position that does require a different level of flexibility.”
She says this poses a challenge for the Senate in allowing positions to be open for anyone who wishes to run or only those who can uphold the skills needed for the position.
Looking to the future, Van Beek believes the Senate should establish more transparent guidelines in the removal from office policy, and so does Erickson.
At the end of every spring semester, the Senate holds a constitutional review where the entire Senate Constitution is discussed and senators may propose corrections, additions or changes to any section.
Erickson says after using the removal from office process, she plans to propose specific changes to that policy.
Overall, she wants to make it more detailed and specific in regard to documentation and timing of the process.
“As of right now, there’s no reference to any sort of documentation of the process other than ‘the constitution says this’ or ‘the constitution says that,’” Erickson said. “But, I think I’d like there to be specific forms, specific ways that get archived and documented so in the future that process stays the same.”
After the final decision for removal, Upperclass Representative Jamie Weekley was voted in as the new Public Relations Representative in an internal special election.
At the beginning of this semester, a campus-wide election was held to fill her former position, the Upperclass Representative.